Standing in line at the local Tractor Supply, surfing the web, reading some of my favorite blogs, or even watching slightly outdated shows on Netflix, I’m finding more and more information being marketed to people like myself, who like to do for ourselves, as “the New American Pioneer.” Unfortunately (especially for those diligent marketers) it irks me.
How does this concept respect those individuals who set out across a wild landscape to carve out a life for themselves?? What about those people who actually initiated a new way of thinking about a process or a practice that has been in place for years? I’m not saying that definitions should be limiting how we see ourselves and how we choose to be seen, but I think a new concept is needed.
This irksome language got me thinking about how I would define my lifestyle and realizing that I do find a few flaws in the available terminology. For example, I feel that I am attempting to live and teach my children an organic lifestyle, as explained by the PBS show BOrganic. I want my family to be aware of environmental impacts we can create and find ways to keep them minimal or positive, but I don’t find that definition to be entirely inclusive of my goals or feelings.
Oddly, another thing that got me thinking about our new lifestyle was watching some old Pluto cartoons with my daughter. Neither of us were feeling well, and it was my turn to pick our viewing material so I settled on the Pluto collection from Walt Disney Treasures. After a few episodes, I pointed out to my six year old that all the houses we saw in these stories had vegetable gardens in their yards. She did not see the significance, as there has always been a vegetable garden in her life.
Shortly after that sick day the demolition of three buildings just off the square in our small town had me thinking about lifestyles again. All of these buildings were built in the last decade of the 1800’s and had a combination of workspace and living area. I thought how tragic it was that it is so rare for business owners to live above their shops any longer. My sister, who has been wanting to both start her own business and buy a home, has been interested in doing that, and is actually finding it challenging, between cities not allowing it and buildings suited for it not being available.
Eventually, all of these random thoughts congealed in my brain with a few simple facts: I buy mostly heirloom seed stock and heritage livestock and though I don’t assume my children will want to live out their lives on the land that we are working, I do assume that someone will want more from it than to pave it over, so I try to be a steward of life that exists here. I want my lifestyle to honor generations past and provide a heritage for those to come. Additionally, I think there are other people who feel a calling to do something similar.
It’s rare to hear of someone having a calling these days. In the past someone drawn to the church may have felt compelled to share their spirituality, a particularly skilled woodworker might have become a maker of furniture, a librarian might have felt more comfortable with books and organization than with other engagements, finally, some teachers may have felt they were especially suited to the instruction of others. Certainly those with strong leadership skills have often found themselves developing an interest in military, law enforcement, or even political pursuits. Some would say these pursuits and associated career paths are simply an application of skill and education and I wouldn’t have a sound argument against that.
However, I think as individuals we often make choices based on more than aptitude. When someone decides to create a lifestyle that has goals beyond salary, retirement, and meeting material needs, and that someone creates something that can have positive outcomes for the next generation or generations to come, that lifestyle has heritage and should be recognized as such.
I hope to honor my ancestors and my children with a heritage lifestyle of homesteading.